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Dora Gil

Dora Gil, was just 32 years old when she was first diagnosed with stage III breast cancer. Though she lived in Guatemala, she opted to come to Houston for a second opinion. For years, she flew back and forth to treat recurrences of the disease.

In 2003, she moved to Houston. “The decisions you make out of necessity . . . you can’t do anything about that,” she says. “We live day by day. You learn to do it. There’s no choice, so you deal with it.”

In 2012, she sought care at Harris Health System. Dora tested positive to a BRCA test, which confirmed she faces a much higher risk for breast and ovarian cancer compared with the general population. She had surgery at Ben Taub Hospital to remove her uterus, ovaries and left breast.

When she was first diagnosed, Dora says she felt she was sentenced to death. It was hard to stay positive, so she kept busy. “Cancer is behind me now, but it took 21 years. There’s a fear of the doctor finding something else, but I’ve had to make peace with it. It puts life in perspective,” she says.

“Harris Health is a blessing. I have no words for how grateful I am. I spent all my money for treatment before I came here, and my care at Harris Health has surpassed what I had before.”

Dora’s husband, a radiology technician, conducts non-destructive testing in the energy field. Her son manages a homeowner’s association. She attended law school in Guatemala before she got sick, but after the diagnosis, she worked to pay for her care. “I used to be active and healthy. Cancer took away some of that. And I quit doing some of the right things because I needed to work. I didn’t have a choice.

“My family was my motivator. My son was eight when I was first diagnosed. I prayed to see him turn 13. Now he’s married and has three daughters.

“I’ve had some dark days, but my son saved me. He was young enough to keep me fighting. There’s no way to explain the energy and strength that comes from within. In the darkest hour, there is always hope,” she says.